Billboard company, Tarentum at odds over sign sought near Tarentum Bridge |
Valley News Dispatch

Billboard company, Tarentum at odds over sign sought near Tarentum Bridge

Brian C. Rittmeyer
Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
America First Enterprises is fighting in court a decision by the Tarentum Zoning Hearing Board denying the company’s proposal for a billboard next to the Tarentum Bridge.
Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
America First Enterprises is fighting in court a decision by the Tarentum Zoning Hearing Board denying the company’s proposal for a billboard next to the Tarentum Bridge.

A company that wants to put a billboard at Tarentum’s end of the Tarentum Bridge is arguing in court that the borough’s zoning ordinance does not allow them anywhere in the borough.

The borough says this isn’t true, claiming where billboards are permitted is clearly identified despite errors in its zoning map and the regulations available on its website.

America First Enterprises, doing business as Oliver Outdoor, is appealing in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court a May decision by the borough’s Zoning Hearing Board denying it a variance and special exception to place the billboard atop a pole next to the bridge at 107 E. Fourth Ave.

The company appealed to the board after the borough’s code enforcement officer denied it a permit to place a billboard there because the land is in the commercial center district, where billboards are not allowed.

America First is asking the court to vacate the zoning hearing board’s decision and direct Tarentum officials to issue a permit for its billboard. The borough is asking for the decision to be upheld and the appeal denied.

The company and borough filed briefs in support of their positions Wednesday.

The two-sided digital billboard would be 48 feet wide and 14 feet high. According to the borough’s brief, it would be placed within five feet of the bridge and 10 feet above the road.

The borough notes there are no billboards in the commercial center district and that it has denied all requests to place one in that area.

Billboards are not allowed in the highway commercial and manufacturing district, where the existing billboards on the other side of the bridge are located. Those billboards predate the zoning ordinance and are therefore grandfathered, according to Anthony Bruni, the borough code enforcement officer.

In its brief, America First Enterprises argues that conflicts and contradictions throughout Tarentum’s zoning ordinance regarding billboards result in a de facto exclusion of billboards, and that as a result, the zoning ordinance is unconstitutional. The borough rejects that assessment and argues the company should not be allowed to bring up a de facto exclusion argument in court because it did not do so before the zoning hearing board.

The company states that Tarentum permits billboards only in its roadway commercial district, but no land zoned as such can be found on the borough’s zoning map.

The borough claims the roadway commercial district falls along the Route 28 corridor and admits it is an error that it doesn’t show up on the zoning map.

The roadway commercial area also falls within another zoning area, the rural resource overlay, where the borough says billboards also are permitted and where one exists along Route 28.

America First claims that, although the zoning ordinance says billboards shall be permitted in the rural resource overlay district, it refers to a subsection that does not exist and there are no regulations in the zoning ordinance for the district.

The borough states that the district is on the zoning map and the subsection does exist and is only missing from its website because of an administrative error made when the code was revised in 2014, resulting in an unintentional omission.

The borough says it is a “complete legal absurdity” that the company continues to argue that the subsection does not exist and refuses to use it.

The company notes that billboards are a conditional use in the heavy commercial district but that no such district exists in the zoning ordinance and no property zoned as such is shown on the zoning map.

The borough did not address that in its brief.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.